3 Smart Books on Learning for Design and Dev Teams

 Photograph of books in an office library

If you’re around me (Marcy) for more than, say, a day or two, chances are you’ll hear a book recommendation—or perhaps three. I love to read, and I can’t help but share titles when I discover a great one. Here are a few books I often recommend to other software design and development professionals who work in EdTech.

 Photo of Interface Design for Learning, by Dorian Peters

Interface Design for Learning, by Dorian Peters

Voices that Matter, 272 pages

If you're in EdTech and haven't read this one yet, please grab a copy for yourself and your teammates. It includes a great introduction to learning theories (behaviorism, constructivism, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and so forth) and provides several strategies for designing products that are intended to support the learning experience. The author, Dorian Peters, writes in a warm and humorous style.

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 Image of How Learning Works

How Learning Works, by Susan A. Ambrose, et al. 

Jossey-Bass, 301 pages

Ambrose and her collaborators wrote this one for college educators, but really, anyone in higher ed, adult learning, or even high school educational design contexts would benefit from the wisdom shared.

When working on products for adults, it’s especially important that teams be mindful of the prior learning (“schema” or “mental models”) that students bring to the experience. In UX design, we often advocate for supporting existing mental models to remove friction and create ease—and for this reason, it’s especially important for teams to be aware of times when those “mental models” actually get in the way. Ambrose and company discuss, among other topics, how existing schema can help or hinder the learning experience—and what teams can do to support learners through their journeys.

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 Designing with the Mind in Mind, by Jeff Johnson

Designing with the Mind in Mind, by Jeff Johnson

Morgan Kaufmann, 186 pages

This rich resource isn’t specifically about learning in an educational context, but it contains loads of valuable information about how our brains take information in through our senses—and how sensory efficiencies (i.e., our amazing internal systems) may help or even hinder learning.

From this guide, you'll learn about visual processing, attention, and recognition and recall. Chapter 10 explains the differences between learning from experience (“easy”) along with problem solving and calculation (“hard”), and where your interface might unintentionally require users to switch from one mode to the other. The book is written for design practitioners, not academics, so it’s a relatively quick read.

PS: We've also recommended this one in our list of books on usability.

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Marcy Van Horn is the founder and principal at Metaxu UX. We help EdTech companies and other mission-driven organizations solve problems and stretch into new territory through human-centered design. Contact us to explore possibilities.

For more book recommendations on learning, design, and innovation, follow @metaxuux on Instagram.

Credits—Library photo: iStock.com/Cecilie_Arcurs; individual book photos: @metaxuux

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